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Joe Earle Posted by on January 5, 2018.

20 Under 20: Local students making a difference in our communities

With publication this month of our “20 Under 20” list, Reporter Newspapers again showcases local students doing extraordinary things to better our communities.

We asked public and private schools, service organizations and members of the general public to nominate students who have been active volunteers in their communities. As in past years, we are astounded at how much time and effort these students have put into their volunteer work. And, as in past years, we found selecting just 20 honorees to be an incredibly difficult decision.

The students you meet here have collectively donated hundreds of hours of their young lives to help others. We hope these uplifting stories will inspire you to give back to the community.

Emma Kate Sellers, 17
Atlanta Girls’ School

Emma Kate Sellers

Emma Kate says she first volunteered with Los Niños Primero simply in an effort to improve her Spanish. But her work with the program for immigrant students in Sandy Springs has grown into much, much more. Over the past four years, she’s put in hundreds of volunteer hours with the organization. She helps teachers in the classrooms and works with students on their English, spelling, math and other subjects. She also connected Los Niños Primero to her micro-philanthropy class project, which contributed $2,000 to the organization. For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she created an after-school program and curriculum to help pre-kindergarten students at Los Niños Primero reach their academic goals. “By volunteering at Los Niños Primero, I have learned that immigrants, especially non-native speakers, have difficulty navigating the American education system and other systems here in the U.S.,” Emma Kate said. “What started as a way to practice Spanish has grown into 350 hours of service, a $2,000 donation, a Girl Scout Gold Award project and a newfound passion for helping the immigrant community.”

Andrew Zach, 17
Marist School

Andrew Zach

Andrew shows passion for politics and the law. He’s worked as a page at the U.S. Senate and an intern in the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office and also volunteers with DeKalb County’s Teen Court. The court, a community-based alternative to the formal court process, allows first-time teen offenders accused of misdemeanors to present their cases to a court composed of their peers. Teens selected for the court review police reports and written testimonies, interview offenders and their parents, consult with officials and then debate what sort of sanctions should be imposed in a case, Andrew said. Sanctions can range from requiring letters of apology to requiring community service to referrals to court programs or counseling, he said. “It’s always very satisfying to help these kids and give them the guidance necessary to succeed in the future,” Andrew said. And Andrew hopes that’s just the beginning of his work in politics or law. “I hope that I can impact people’s lives in a positive way and work through government structures to pass policies that will benefit people all across the country,” he said.

Samantha Delman, 17
Pace Academy

Samantha Delman

Samantha is working towards her Girl Scout Gold Award on a project that would provide an educational curriculum regarding testing for sexually transmitted diseases to teen girls in low-income communities. She has partnered with Spelman College, the Hope Education Project, and the Westside and Peoplestown communities to get the project off the ground. Her goal is to create a sustainable program that would provide “health equity” throughout Atlanta. She was inspired to launch the initiative as a result of her work tutoring and mentoring at the Rick McDevitt Community Center in the Peoplestown neighborhood. In her role, Sam recruits students to participate in the program and tutors three afternoons per week throughout the school year. She also serves as a tutor and counselor for Keeping Pace, an academic summer program at Pace for underserved youth from Peoplestown and other neighborhoods. Among other organizations, Samantha also helped launch The Universal Language, a group that collects equipment for Kick4Life, which uses soccer as a forum for HIV/AIDs education. “Working at Keeping Pace led me to become engaged and passionate about the issues in the Peoplestown community, and I am so thankful for the opportunity.”

Kaylan Jones, 18
Atlanta International School

Kaylan Jones

As part of her internship with the Center for Civil and Human Rights last summer, Kaylan became engaged with work of Back on My Feet and still regularly meets at the Inman Park MARTA station at 5:45 a.m. to run with local area homeless residents. She has continued to stay engaged in her work from the internship, single-handedly initiating and leading a human rights program at Atlanta International School last fall. In December, she returned to the Center to plan a program for elementary students in the Atlanta area. Kaylan’s memorable moment as a volunteer came while organizing a cheering section during a recent Back on My Feet race. “While cheering, I started talking with an alum of the Back on My Feet program who, not too long before the event, was recovering from being struck by a car on the sidewalk. His story humbled me because the least I could do was be there to support Back on My Feet by waking up early, while he was there shortly after a shocking incident. His story encouraged me to give back and not allow any excuse to hinder me from volunteering in the future.”

 

 

Matthew Celecia, 16
North Atlanta High School

Matthew Celecia

Matthew is a current member of the Teen Leaders program at the Carl E. Sanders Family YMCA where he volunteers weekly in the childcare department interacting and engaging with the children. Matthew helped to spearhead a teen-led clothing drive and is currently working on a survey project to gather feedback that will help provide a consistent way to measure the growth, progress and impact of the YMCA’s programs. “One of the most memorable moments I have had while volunteering was my first day in the playcenter at the YMCA. When I first decided to help, I had no clue what to do or how the children would react to having me in their room. Upon walking in, the staff directed me to ‘go play with the kids,’ so I chose to sit at a large table towards the back of the room. Amazingly, several of the children began to surround me, asking me questions and giving me toys to play with. When I was asked to read, they sat quietly and gave me their full attention. Now they are excited to see me. Overall, this has taught me how to relate and understand younger children.”

 

 

The Scalise Sisters: Lauren, 15; Emilie, 13; Samantha, 17
The Galloway School

From left, Lauren, Emilie and Samantha Scalise

After their mother battled with breast cancer, the sisters decided to organize a fundraising walk called Strides for Survivors. The event supported TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation, where their mother received treatment. Nearly 150 people participated in a fundraising walk last year, which raised over $6,000. Another walk is planned for February. “Spending this tremendous amount of time with my family to support something that hits so close to home was the best feeling that you could imagine,” Emilie said of organizing the walk. “Knowing that the donations of the participants of the Strides for Survivors walk helps more women rebuild their strength during their battle with breast cancer drives my sisters and me to want to grow our organization and to raise more money for Turning Point,” Samantha said. “Other kids just like me could look into their mother’s eyes and see them as the strong confident woman that they are and it would be because of our donations,” Lauren said.

 

Albert Zhang, 17
The Westminster Schools

Albert Zhang

A nationally recognized competitive table tennis player, Albert created the Student Table Tennis Activists Foundation (STTAF) to address health and educational issues in the community through ping pong. With the help of friends and family, Albert raised more than $2,000 and attracted 66 players to a recent tournament. Along with mission trips, tutoring, taking part in Relay For Life and creating public art, Albert has won a raft of awards including a Congressional Gold Medal and the Teen Ink Service Award. He likens the success of STTAF, which he hopes to take national, to creating a work of art. “Like clockwork, we register entrants, collect donations, arrange matches. I never thought it possible until drawing it out,” Albert said. “STTAF, our elaborate conception, generates $2,200 we use to buy tables and 150 paddles for the children’s center. Composition becomes a way of creatively modeling visions into reality.”

 

 

Courtney Copeland, 17
The Galloway School

Courtney Copeland

In 2015, Courtney created the nonprofit “Supply Circle” after visiting her mother’s family home in Jamaica and seeing how difficult it is for children there to learn without school supplies. She organized a drive to collect supplies for the Heartsease Primary School in Mandeville, Jamaica such as pencils, notebooks, backpacks and pencil sharpeners, and they were delivered last September. Courtney was inspired to help underprivileged children in Jamaica because she says, “education is important and the key to success. We have to focus on the youth of the future and realize that every community is affected by another. I believe when those students feel confident, then they will succeed in and out of the classroom.” In addition, Courtney is a 2018 GivingPoint fellow, and she is participating in entrepreneurial training that teaches students about launching community projects and nonprofit organizations.

 

 

Kathleen Pahl, 17
Mount Vernon Presbyterian School

Kathleen Pahl

Starting her freshmen year, Kathleen completed a yearlong project called Happiness in a Bag where she collected donated necessities like toiletries, gloves and granola bars for homeless people in Atlanta. During her sophomore year, she started an anti-bullying club at the high school called No Place For Hate. Last year Kathleen helped created and promote the Hurricane Harvey Relief fund, which raised more than $3,000. Kathleen is also working on a year-long project where she volunteers her time every Thursday at the Mount Vernon Towers assisted living home. “My most memorable moment occurred during my sophomore year collecting donated items from the community to be given to the homeless. For me the most gratifying part of the experience was meeting with individuals and hearing their stories as they thanked us for the bags full of necessities that we shared.”

 

 

Jamil Atkinson, 17
The Lovett School

Jamil Atkinson

Jamil visited Lovett’s 825-acre cloud forest property in Ecuador, called Siempre Verde, for the first time two years ago. Struck by the beauty and challenges facing the people of the region, he gathered a group of Lovett students, organized a trip to Siempre Verde last summer, and met with local residents to talk about their successes and failures in selling their products. The goal was to figure out a way to sell their goods at Lovett on a long-term basis. During the trip, Jamil and his group made a documentary to market the products the local farmers and artisans grow and make. They brought back enough of the products to make 50 gift baskets containing coffee, raw sugar, honey, soap and aloe moisturizer. The baskets sold out and all monies will go back to the local famers and artisans in Ecuador. More baskets will be made in 2018 with new items collected by students who visit Siempre Verde. “It was interesting to see how labor intensive it is to produce the goods that are so commonplace to me. In our everyday lives, we don’t really think about how something on our dinner table got there, and it was fascinating to see the process.”

Will Milling, 17
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School

Will Milling

Rather than have their usual senior orientation meeting, Will Milling proposed something
dramatically — and philanthropically — different for his class. He developed and raised money for a team-building program called Build-A-Hand, which resulted in the senior class building 35 prosthetic hands that are now being delivered to landmine victims around the world. “After the class had learned about the project and been working on assembling the hands in teams, I had each person place a koozie over their dominant hand. This resulted in each student only being able to construct a prosthetic hand with one hand – simulating the physical situation of someone who has lost a hand. Although this can be viewed as a serious teaching moment, it also created some awkward moments, even leading to some laughs. It was difficult for some of the students and some struggled with a few of the smaller pieces, but they all seemed to learn about something bigger than themselves. We were all very proud of helping those victims around the world in such a life-changing way.”

 

 

Jeremy “Rem” Hellmann, 17
The Weber School

Jeremy “Rem” Hellmann

As early as his bar mitzvah, Rem chose to have guests buy One World Futbols (indestructible balls made for any kind of surface) rather than get him gifts, and partnered with Atlanta’s Soccer in the Streets to distribute the dozens of balls to refugee kids in Clarkston. He was chosen by the National Center for Civil & Human Rights and the Museum of History & Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University to participate in a four-part dialogue titled “Changing Landscapes: Conversations on Human Rights.” Rem was also selected to be on the Fulton County Youth Commission, the Morehouse College Coca Cola Pre-College Leadership Program and The Great Jewish Books summer program at the Yiddish Book Center in Massachusetts. He said his time on the youth commission has been life-changing. “I remember the first time being in a van with my fellow youth commissioners, driving from place to place for the sole purpose of connecting with the homeless, providing them with the basics for their holidays, and inviting them to our Thanksgiving meal. Despite their obvious hardships, the gratitude we received was palpable. This taught me that although it’s important to give charity, just reaching out and interacting with others is often equally appreciated.”

Tallulah Grace Schley-Ritchie, 18
Atlanta Girls’ School

Tallulah Grace Schley-Ritichie

Tallulah has been an active member of Scouting Bridges: Uganda, an affiliation of co-ed Venturing Crew 370 of the Boy Scouts of America. She has been to Uganda three times to learn much about medicine and mental health. She is particularly interested in women’s health, and has assumed an active role in the Menstruation Matters initiative, which educates young Ugandan women on the importance of safe monthly hygiene. She has participated in educational clinics in Uganda, and has helped with the distribution of re-useable sanitary kits to women who have little or no access to appropriate supplies. “As a person interested in scientific disciplines as well as women’s education and health globally, participating in a project that so directly helps girls my age has been rewarding to such an extent I find it hard to fully articulate.”

 

Elaine Wen, 16
North Springs Charter High School

Elaine Wen

Elaine balances two widely divergent interests: technology and fencing. She co-founded the Women in Technology Club at North Springs to help get other girls interested in science, engineering and technology, and, in November, she was named 2017 Women in Technology Girl of the Year. At the same time, she has fenced for more than six years, co-captains her school fencing team and competes in national and regional tournaments. She was the Georgia High School Fencing League Women’s Epee Individual Champion in 2017. She says fencing has taught her perseverance and the power of teamwork while the technology club has allowed her “a journey of self-discovery” as she learns about careers in science, engineering and technology.

 

 

 

 

Patrick Schulman, 18
Holy Spirit Preparatory School

Patrick Schulman

Patrick started studying Latin in the seventh grade and ancient Greek in the eighth grade, and learned to love them both. In high school, he joined the school’s Classics Club, which met weekly with younger students to teach them about classical civilizations. He had planned to take over the club, but he ran into a conflict between the timing of Classics Club meetings and football practice. “They were both incredibly important to me,” Patrick said, “so one day when I was helping construct shelves in our parish’s local Hispanic mission, Centro Catolico, I had the idea of starting my own club at the mission on Sundays. This way, I could get the club’s schedule to work with my own and I would be teaching children who otherwise would not be receiving any education in the classics in their public schools. The idea of being able to make a bigger difference in the community was very important to me, and so I started the program at the beginning of my junior year.” The club still is going strong, and Patrick says he plans to turn control of it over to his younger brother next year. Running the club didn’t interfere with Patrick’s campus activities, either. This year, he was captain of the football team and named Holy Spirit’s Head Boy.

 

Lauren Hutson, 17
St. Pius X Catholic School

Lauren Hutson

As a photographer, Lauren feels drawn to the refugee communities around the city of Clarkston in DeKalb County. She says she wants “to document the incredible stories of immense strength that these families have to tell about their plight and flight from Africa to America to give those around me a better understanding of what these refugees go through for the hope of new life.”

She sets up her portable studio at apartment complexes, churches or pre-schools and organizes family photo shoots. She created a charity called the People Not Projects Foundation to provide refugee families with framed family photos and has delivered more than 150. “We often forget how fortunate we are to have easy and constant access to photography by means of our cellphones and cameras,” she writes on her website, LaurenHutson.com. “The photographs of our families that we consider part of our day-to-day being are often unfathomable luxuries to those coming to America who have none. My goal is to provide these families, too, with photographs of their loved ones.”

Cate O’Kelley, 17
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School

Cate O’Kelley

Cate is focused on drawing attention to the experiences of resettled refugees in Clarkston, Ga. She works to teach Holy Innocents’ students and faculty about local refugee-led social enterprise initiatives and has worked on behalf of Soul Hope, Children Inspiring Hope and UNICEF Kids Power Band programs. This year, as a member of the school’s Program for Global Citizenship, Cate is proposing to create an organization enabling Atlanta students to collaborate on community engagement projects.

 

 

 

 

 

Morgan Finch, 18
Riverwood International Charter School

Morgan Finch

Morgan splits her time between an active school life, church work and volunteering in the community. She’s a student body officer, treasurer of the National Honor Society, president of the Future Medical Professionals Club, and captain of the varsity cheerleading team, and broadcasts the morning announcements at Riverwood. Outside school, she joined a mission trip to South Africa and has volunteered at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She established her own fundraiser, called “Knock Out Poverty in the A,” to collect toiletries and raise awareness about poverty in our community. “I knew that my contribution wouldn’t exactly solve the problem, but I just had to do something to help, so I started my fundraiser,” she said. “I asked my family, my school, and people from the community to donate either money, toiletries, underwear for both men and women and their prayers in exchange for a T-shirt that I designed that advertised the cause. At the end of the fundraiser, I split the funds and donated half to a women-and-children’s shelter and used the other half to purchase more items to make care packages that I would hand out to homeless people I saw on the street. … I honestly thought that was the end of that project, but I was given the opportunity to take my project globally on my mission trip to South Africa. I started the fundraiser up for the following year and was able to ship boxes of underwear, toiletries, and sanitary napkins to an HIV/AIDS orphanage that we visited while there.”

 

 

 

Daniel S. Stern, 17
The Weber School

Daniel Stern

After volunteering with Friendship Circle, an organization that provides companionship to children and adults with special needs, Daniel created Serve It Up Tennis Camp. He collected tennis rackets at his school and raised more than $1,200 for the camp, which was held last summer at donated courts at the Sandy Springs Tennis Center. “I was excited about organizing the tennis camp this past summer for children with special needs but what I did not realize until the camp was over was the impact the camp had on the campers’ entire families. I knew the special needs kids were having a great time, as we (the volunteers) all were, but when the parents came up to us afterwards and told us how much the camp meant to them seeing their kids so happy, I realized how being involved impacts more than just the people you are working with directly.”

 

 

 

Gabriela Boatright, 18
North Springs Charter High School

Gabriella Boatright

Over the past two summers, Gabriela has volunteered at Emory University Hospital to try to help neurosurgery patients feel more at ease. “I wanted to interact with patients and their families and make them feel as comfortable as one could in a hospital,” she said. “It was my personal goal to put a smile on every patient’s face, or at least try to brighten up their days.” In the fall, she plans to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. She wants to serve in the Army “so that I may realize my lifelong goal of changing the world one positive step at a time through leading the finest young men and women in the world in pursuits that require the selfless act of putting one’s own wants and needs aside for a greater purpose.” Her desire to make things better doesn’t end there. At North Springs, Gabriela captained the girls’ varsity basketball team and also has coached middle-school students in debate.

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